Anxiety in Young People with High Learning Potential

Teenager with anxiety

Anxiety is the body’s way of preparing for some form of danger. While most people will experience anxiety in certain situations, like preparing for an exam or taking part in a competitive game, for some children anxiety can become so intense that it cripples them.

Children with high learning potential are especially prone to feelings of anxiety, as their understanding of the world and current issues can be a lot deeper than for those of their peers. They feel things intensely, vividly, are often aware of how different they are from their school friends, how they don’t fit in, that they are bored all the time or struggle to concentrate, they have stomach aches or headaches and worry that any of this means that there is something seriously wrong with them.

Young people with high learning potential are also prone to being too hard on themselves. Their drive to find out, to understand, to achieve and the standards they set themselves can be so high that they may find themselves paralysed by the anxiety that this can create.

Sometimes the raised expectations of children with high learning potential can also be so high that, in trying to please adults with those expectations, children become very afraid of failure. They also may achieve too easily because school work never truly challenges them, so they become afraid of failing and won’t challenge themselves beyond their comfort zone.  As for competitiveness, they are so used to being top at subjects without too much effort, that if someone else beats them their self-esteem can crash.

Facing your anxieties, discovering how to relax and learning how to fail and recover from failure are important parts of discovering about yourself. However, if a child’s anxiety levels become so high that it interferes with everyday life, they may need counselling/therapy to help them cope.

Boy sitting upset on the sofa


  • Anger or irritability
  • Crying more than expected for their age
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fidgeting
  • Frequent meltdowns
  • Headaches
  • Greater inflexibility
  • Need to please
  • Nightmares
  • Not eating properly
  • Not talking
  • Separation problems
  • Sleep issues
  • Stomach aches
  • Talking non-stop
  • Worrying constantly
Mono photo of a boy staring out of the window

Supporting Anxious Children

Many children have worries or anxieties. For children with high learning potential, common characteristics, such as overexcitabilities or asynchronous development, can magnify emotional issues. Find out how to support children with their anxiety issues in our blogs

Discover other blogs on this subject in our Wellbeing Category

Find out more from our advice sheets

Anxious child

Useful Websites


Further helpful articles on anxiety, and anxiety in children with high learning potential

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